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Harry Berrier, MU veterinary professor, Show Me Bar-B-Q Sauce maker, dies at 95

Saturday, March 16, 2013 | 8:14 p.m. CDT; updated 9:36 a.m. CDT, Sunday, March 17, 2013
In this 1975 Missourian file photo, Harry Berrier shows his basement factory where he produced his barbecue sauce.

COLUMBIA — Last summer, Brendon Steenbergen and his bride handed out Mason jars filled with Show Me Bar-B-Q Sauce as wedding favors.

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Fritz Gustafson first tried the sauce two decades ago and said he has been having it shipped from Columbia to California ever since.

Judy Purcell, who lives in Colorado, buys "gallon-sized jugs for our family and friends.”

“If you like smoky, sweet and savory, this is one you have to try,” she wrote about the barbecue sauce two years ago on her blog, "Savoring Today."

For more than 30 years, Harry Berrier, an emeritus professor in MU's College of Veterinary Medicine, made and sent Show Me Bar-B-Q Sauce to legions of fans around the country.

On Sunday, March 10, 2013, Dr. Berrier died in Columbia at age 95.

He concocted his special sauce in 1975 when he couldn’t find one he liked on the market, the Missourian reported in 2007.

“There were only half a dozen brands back in ’75, and they were all full of junk,” he told a reporter, referring to fillers such as cellulose and cornstarch.

He and his wife, Lina, began cooking it up in their basement for friends until word spread and they secured a patent. When the Berriers began distributing it widely in the 1980s, they continued to produce it in their basement.

Dr. Berrier told a Missourian reporter that the key ingredient was Heinz Ketchup, added to a combination of liquid smoke, natural spices and Worcestershire sauce.

“I only use pure ingredients,” he said.

He and his wife, with the help of three part-time workers, produced 480 gallons a week in their Columbia home during the summer months.

Dr. Berrier was a 1941 MU graduate, with a bachelor's degree in vocational agriculture. He received his degree in veterinary medicine from Kansas State University in 1945.

In 2004, Kansas State honored him with the Veterinary Medical Alumni Association Recognition Award.

A biographical statement that accompanied the award noted that "The Grateful Dead took Show-Me Sauce on tour with them, and country music artist Tanya Tucker, as well as playwright Neil Simon, are regular customers of Dr. Berrier’s."

In 1948, Dr. Berrier returned to MU as an assistant professor of veterinary pathology. Before that, he had worked in general practice in Odessa, Mo., and served as a veterinarian with U.S. armed forces after World War II.

He remained at MU until his retirement, serving as assistant professor of veterinary pathology, associate professor of veterinary pathology and clinical toxicologist in the veterinary medical diagnostic laboratory. He earned a master of science degree in veterinary pathology in 1960 from MU.

Dr. Berrier belonged to at least 16 professional organizations, including the American and the Missouri Veterinary Medical associations and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians. In 1965, he was instrumental in the formation of the American Society for Veterinary Clinical Pathology.

After he retired, he continued to make the barbecue sauce, building an international customer base and winning public recognition.

Inside Columbia named Dr. Berrier’s barbecue sauce one of the city’s best in June 2011, praising "the combination of Heinz Ketchup, liquid smoke, spices and Worcestershire sauce” that doesn’t require refrigeration.

Locally, it has been available at Buckingham Smokehouse, Eastgate Foods, Hy-Vee, Moser’s, Patricia’s and Schnucks.

Gustafson, who lives in Morgan Hill, Calif., orders it online and said he uses the sauce to marinate steaks and as a condiment on burgers.

“I also like the old-school way of doing business,” he said. “They don’t take credit cards. They just send you the package with an invoice in there and say, ‘Send us a check.’"

Steenbergen, who grew up in Russellville, Mo., but now lives in Seattle, called the sauce a kitchen staple.

“Since I’ve been old enough to buy groceries, it’s been around,” Steenbergen said. “It’s always been my favorite.”

“I actually sent Dr. Berrier a letter telling him he was a part of our wedding,” he said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t ever hear back.”

Services for Dr. Berrier are being handled by Memorial Funeral Home.

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.


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